Argument from evil is essentially an argument that objects to the existence of God on account of the existence of evil in the world. The fact that evil plagues this world in multitude and enormity consolidates the foundation of atheism. There are four versions of this argument. The first version of the argument from evil comprises of three premises.
- The first premise asserts that if God must exist as a supreme being worthy of worship then He must be a being attributed with all power, knowledge and goodness .
- The second premise argues that if God is all-PKG then the existence of evil is impossible.
- The third premise asserts that evil is present in the world.
The deduction from these three premises is evident and logical that is “There is no God”. The deduction is built on the foundation of the logical thought course that states that if an all-PKG exists then He is powerful enough to stop evil, He is knowing enough to distinguish right from wrong and He is good enough to He should wish to prevent evil. However, evil still persists and prevails therefore the concept of an all PKG God is baseless and untrue.
II. Rejecting the First Version of Argument from Evil
A. Rejecting the First Premise
The three premises of first version reject the concept of an all-PKG God in unison and co-dependence. Furthermore, these premises employ sound logic which makes this argument undeniably valid. Therefore, to falsify the deduction and conclusion of these three premises, any one of the three premises needs to be rejected . The first premise is regarded as the definition of God by many. If it is indeed the definition of God, then rejecting it would mean to reject the notion that God exists. However, if we perceive it as a theory rather than a strict definition, then it would mean to reject the notion of God being all-PKG not His existence entirely . For example, in accordance with rejecting the first premise, Greeks did not believe their Gods to be all powerful. Manichaeism and Zoroastrian religions also don’t hold the belief of an all-powerful God. But even by rejecting first premise as a theory, the theistic concepts and beliefs of many religions who deem God as the Almighty and Omnipotent are disrupted.
B. Rejecting the Third Premise
If we reject the third premise it would mean to reject the presence of evil. The argument from evil describes evil to have two kinds; natural and human-controlled . Natural evil governs the suffering inflicted upon mankind by natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis etc. Human controlled evil refers to the suffering and misery inflicted by humans on humans. For example, the torture the Jews were subjected to by the Nazi Regime in the second world war or the miseries inflicted upon the poor by raising taxes and inflation. Rejecting the third premise is only possible if one turned a blind eye to all the suffering in the world. Suffering is not something perceived by the eyes, it is perceived by the heart and to ignore it would mean being heartless. It’s possible to reject the third premise if we viewed the world as neutral and indifferent to morality . If the world were devoid of emotion and feelings, only then could one deny the existence of evil. But evil is not an abstract entity. The sufferings of humans are concrete evidence to the existence of evil which makes it inhumane to reject the third premise.
C. Rejecting the Second Premise
Rejecting the second premise is therefore the only plausible way to reinforce the theistic beliefs that assert the existence of God as an all- PKG. Rejecting the second premise seeks a way to explain the co-existence of God and evil. There are two notable ways that explain this co-existence; Theodicy and Defense. Theodicy refers to explaining why an all-PKG God will allow evil to thrive. Defense is the notion of accepting that there’s no reason good enough to explain how or why the second premise can be true . To understand better, let’s consider the extinction of dinosaurs as an example. One could raise the question that if dinosaurs were created by God to inhabit the earth, then why did they go extinct? Theodicy would seek to answer this question by stating the motives God must have had for making dinosaurs go extinct. On the other hand, Defense would answer this question by asserting that there was no good reason for God to have prevented the extinction of dinosaurs. Most religions including Christianity employ theodicy and try to explain God’s motives for letting evil thrive.
III. Soul Building Evil
One of the leading concepts in theodicy is of soul building evil . This concept asserts that some evils are capable of soul building and refers to the strengthening of character by suffering adversities and hardships. It is offered as a plausible explanation by theodicy for God allowing evil to thrive. It is indeed a fact that hardships strengthen ones character and make one a better and stronger person. Suffering might make a person stronger, but it can also destroy a person. The torture that the Jews were subjected to, in the second world war, didn’t strengthen them as much as it destroyed them. It inflicted irreversible damage. The brutal tortures people are still being subjected to in different parts of the world every day are not making them any stronger but are destroying them. And even if such brutal tortures did reform or strengthen people, it is not worth it. A strength that requires going through inhumane ordeals is not worth acquiring. People who prevail the concept of soul building evil would not choose to go through such adversities themselves for soul building. Moreover, natural evil in the form of disasters destroys countless lives while claiming countless for good as well. The deadliest tsunamis Japan and Indonesia have suffered over the years have not led to mass reforms but destruction of masses on grand scale. The nuclear accident of Chernobyl didn’t lead to the residents becoming better people. It destroyed their lives. Therefore, saying that all evil is soul building is a gross understatement. Only a small proportion of evil is soul building .
A. Soul building of audience
There are some who argue that suffering of an individual is soul building for the witnesses as well . But this is also true for only a small proportion of evil. Most evils do not even have an audience they can subject to soul building. The evil that does get an audience only affects a small part of it in a positive way, the rest are either indifferent or unaffected because of their helplessness to aid the suffering. For example, everyday news from the atrocities being carried out in Syria, Kashmir or Yemen reaches every corner of the world. The number of people who are affected by this news is negligible compared to the number of people who are reached by this news. Furthermore, the number of people who resolve to aid the suffering of these people is again negligible compared to the number of people who were affected by the news. So, saying that evil is soul building for its audience is embellishing and exaggerating an understatement.
B. A sense of Pride
The concept of soul-building raises questions regarding why God couldn’t just create us strong in the first place . It is rather pointless to make humans endure extreme suffering and adversities for acquiring strength of character when God had all the power to create them with that strength to begin with. To cater this question, some people present the notion of pride . The notion states that if we acquired strength by God’s power and benevolence then the credit for that strength will go to Him but if we acquired it by our own efforts through suffering and enduring extreme adversities then the credit will go to us. We will have a sense of pride that could not have been acquired otherwise. But evaluating this notion raises questions like why do we have to be proud of suffering, why do we have to be given credit, what’s wrong with the credit going to God if the credit for everything else already goes to Him? These are questions that are not answered convincingly by those who came up with the notion of pride in suffering.
C. Parenting Analogy
To explain why God did not create us strong in the first place, some people also present the parenting analogy . Some parents on learning that their children are being bullied in school resolve to toughen up their children by making them endure and standing up to the bullies rather than complaining about it to the principal. They do so in order to prepare their children for the adversities of the bitter realities of life that lies ahead of them. But this analogy loses its appeal when faced with the comparison of the power of man and God. If parents had the power to toughen their children without subjecting them to the bullies’ tortures, would they subject them to it? The answer is an undeniable no.
IV. The extent of success of Theodicy
So, in essence, Theodicy doesn’t successfully explain why God allows evil’s presence but only explains why God allows soul-building evils . Soul building evils are but a tiny portion of the evil humanity is subjected to at present. Therefore, the explanation obliged by theodicy governs only a tiny portion of the evil afflicting this world. In truth, an explanation is not required for why there is evil if there is an all- PKG God. An explanation is not required for why evil exists in enormity and abundance when it should be none at all. Rather, an explanation is required for why an all- PKG God allows the presence and prevalence of evil in multitude when it should be in the most minute of proportions meant solely for soul building purposes.
According to Sober, the most plausible way of rejecting the first version of argument from evil is by rejecting its second premise. My belief is in accordance with his as rejecting the first premise will fall in discordance with leading theistic beliefs and concepts irrespective of whether we reject as definition of theory. To interfere with the concept and manner of God’s existence is a dangerous way of rejecting the argument from evil. Furthermore, in my opinion rejecting the third premise not only goes against the rulings of the heart but the head as well. It is not only cruel to deny the existence and abundance of evil, but it is absurd and ridiculous as well because it is equivalent to denial in spite of concrete evidential reasons present. Therefore, rejecting the second premise by uncovering motives for God allowing evil’s existence is the most plausible way to reject this argument.
Theodicy attempts to explain the existence of evil by the concept of soul building evil. I agree with Sober in this regard that while evil might be soul building in a few cases but the capability of evil to be soul building is no match for its capability of destruction. The extent to which evil in both its kinds can wreak havoc on man kind is horrendous. Furthermore, the proportion of evil that can be soul building is minute as compared to the enormity and multitude of evil in the world that is devastating and victimizing humans every day.
To explain why God couldn’t humans with strong souls in the first place, I believe both the answers that are provided, that are to attain a sense of pride or the parenting analogy, fail miserably. Neither is a sense of pride crucial enough to us to justify inhumane suffering nor are parents a match for an all-PKG God. So, I believe that no explanation satisfactorily explains why evil exists in huge proportions and extremity while only a minute proportion should have been allowed by an all-PKG God for the purpose of soul building.
The argument from evil aims at denouncing the existence of God by the impossibility of co-existence of an all PKG God and evil. The first version of this argument employing three interlinked premises puts forth a logical deduction stating that if God is all PKG then evil must not exist but since it does therefore God doesn’t exist. To reject this argument one of the three premises must be rejected. Rejecting the second premise is most plausible. Theodicy rejects the second premise with the concept of soul building evil, but it fails to explain the existence of evil in abundance and enormity as soul building evils form only a small portion of the evil inflicting mankind . What is needed to reject this argument is therefore an explanation that governs the existence of evil in abundance in presence of an all-PKG God.
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